I’m not a very forgetful person. Never in my life have I forgotten my keys, and only once in my time on this planet have I ever forgotten my wallet. This actually happened 3 weeks ago at Publix and I felt like a complete fucking nincompoop. Only once in college did I ever forget my credit card at the bar and it was on the night of a roommate’s 21st birthday. And even though it’s been decades I can still tell you the name of my co-captain in youth soccer from the year we won the City Cup and sang ‘We Are The Champions’ after winning a shootout in the finals while dancing on the graves of the 10-year-olds across the field who were crying after they lost the game. Again, I’m not a very forgetful person.
That said, I am known to walk into a room and completely forget what I waled into that room to do, but apparently I’m not alone in this and it’s a fairly common phenomenon. Well, a new behavioral study has actually determined the cause of this, so if you’ve ever walked into a room and forgotten what you were there to do then here’s the explanation of why that happens.
Turns out, it’s the door’s fault. Also known as the ‘boundary effect’.
The doorway acts as an ‘event boundary’, signalling to our brain that one memory episode is finished and another can begin. Sort of like stopping and starting the tape.
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana came up with the theory after getting volunteers to play a not-so-fun video game.
In the game, which had 55 ‘virtual’ rooms, volunteers had to pick up objects from one table and put them down on another.
As soon as they picked the object up, it would disappear.
They either had to walk to another table in the room to put the object down, or they had to walk into the next room.
As they went through the game, researchers would give them pop quizzes, asking them to name whatever object they had just picked up.
And, lo and behold, their responses were more unsure and slower when they’d had to move rooms to get to the next object.
The study was also repeated in real life, and the results were the same.
An additional test found that walking back into the original room didn’t spark the memory to return either. So, retracing your steps doesn’t actually help memory recall.
So there you have it, ‘it’s the door’s fault’, and you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself for being forgetful. It’s not a ‘senior moment’, and it’s not a sign that you have an inactive memory. It’s just one of those psychological phenomenons that have plagued researchers for years and one that finally has an explanation.
(h/t Metro UK)
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